Friday, May 31, 2019

America is Secular/Individualist—Not European, Judeo-Christian, or Multicultural

In an editorial, the New Jersey Star-Ledger Editorial Board raged against Republican NJ state senator Mike Doherty over comments he made that were published in an article by Mike Kelly. Doherty made some interesting points. But in N.J. senator, a white man, just wants to feel 'comfortable' in America, the Star-Ledger fpcussed on what it saw as Doherty’s “bigotry”:

Now, in a Record column by Mike Kelly that profiles him as President Trump's lonely cheerleader in New Jersey, Doherty says the U.S. shouldn't take any more immigrants from certain countries: "non-European" nations that are not part of a "Judeo-Christian culture."

Left these comments:

I read the Kelly article. Doherty makes a good point about the economy. America has a mixed economy—a mixture of free market capitalism and statism; that is, a politically corrupted economy. This allows the politically connected to “rig the system” in their favor through government favoritism.

But he’s dead wrong that America is a “European" and "Judeo-Christian culture." Despite the fact that America is numerically of majority European descent and Christian, America is a secular individualist culture and government. Has Doherty not read the Declaration of Independence? Has he not read the Constitution, especially the First Amendment? Has he not read the inscription on the Statue of Liberty?

Doherty’s view actually has a lot in common with the Left, with it’s high-brow racism snuck in as “multiculturalism” and “diversity” based on ethnicity. Both the Left and the social Right are collectivist. Both sides deny American culture, which is individualist—a nation where people can leave their suffocating political, cultural, religious, and family baggage behind and start fresh in a land of intellectual, political, and economic freedom. A place where, in theory if not so much any longer in practice, people are judged individually on attributes of choice, such as the content of their characters and the sum of their achievements, rather than uncontrollable and unchosen group similarities.

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Tuesday, May 28, 2019

American Schools versus the U.S. Military

Fox news highlighted this rant by a California teacher, Gregory Salcido:

“Think about the people you know who are over there,” Salcido is heard saying. “Your freakin' stupid Uncle Louie or whatever. They're dumb s - - - s. They're not high-level bankers. They're not academic people. They're not intellectual people."

“They’re the freakin’ lowest of our low.”

The irony is that the military is a legitimate function of government, especially as it is an all-volunteer military. Government schools, on the other hand, are not a legitimate function of government. They are an infringement on the inalienable individual liberty rights of Americans. America’s public schools are locked in place by compulsory attendance and compulsory taxation, and some level of coercive government control extends to private schooling as well.

A further irony is the relative performance of the military versus the schools. The military has done a stellar job of performing its primary function of defending America’s borders from foreign enemies (even while hamstrung by politically imposed combat restrictions). On the other hand, American schools are largely failing at educating American kids. It’s interesting that Salcido is a history teacher. One of our schools’ greatest weaknesses is the failure to educate American kids on America’s Founding freedom principles—individual rights, constitutionally limited government, political equality, free markets, intellectual freedom, etc. More broadly, American kids are failing to learn to think critically and independently.

Given this disparity in performance, is it the military or the teaching profession that can logically be accused of being infected by “the lowest of the low”?

Related Reading:

Why Johnny Can’t Think--Leonard Peikoff

The Comprachicos—Ayn Rand

Saturday, May 25, 2019

A Memorial day Tribute

Throughout history, armies have fought to protect kings, theocrats, and other kinds of dictators from their own people. They fought for imperialistic conquest and/or plunder, or even to satisfy the “honor” of some sundry rulers—militaries usually manned by average people who rarely had anything to gain from the military adventures.

America’s military is unique. It fights to protect the borders of a country established by a set of ideas…the most radical set of ideas in man’s history. America is the first and only country founded explicitly and philosophically on the principle that an individual’s life is his to live, by unalienable right. America is the first and only country founded on the explicit principle that the government exists as servant for and by permission of the people, with the solemn duty to protect those rights; or, as Ronald Reagan put it in his first inaugural address:

As established in the Declaration of Independence, individual  rights come before government—rights being understood as guarantees to freedom of action to pursue personal advancement, not automatic claims on economic rewards that others must be forced to provide. Then, as stated in the document that initiated the United States of America as a politically autonomous entity, the Declaration states, "to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men." That is America. Even the British Empire from which America won independence, then the freest society the world had ever known, was based on the premise that "rights" are privileges granted by the Crown. Englishmen were subjects, not truly free.

Sadly, the knowledge of what this country stands for is steadily slipping away…and along with it, our rights. Fortunately, we’re still free to speak out. So the best way to honor the military fighter who died in the line of duty, for those of us who still retain that knowledge, is to remind our fellow Americans in any small way that we can about America’s unique, noble, and radical Founding ideals.

We can still prevent “the other way around”. But we must rediscover the knowledge of, and think about, what it means to be an American. So, let us reflect on what really made this country possible.

This Memorial Day weekend, we will hear a lot about the “sacrifices” made by those who served and died defending America.

It is said that this nation, our freedom, and our way of life, are a gift bestowed upon us by the grace of the “sacrifices” of the Founding Fathers and the fighters of America’s wars from the Revolutionary War on. A gift? Yes. But, was it a sacrificial gift? Is it even possible that so magnificent an achievement – the United States of America – could be the product of sacrifice? As the closing words of this country’s Founding philosophical document – the Declaration of Independence – attest, the Founding Fathers risked everything to make their ideals a reality:

And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.

Some point to those words, and bestow on the signatories of that document the “honor” of having sacrificed for us, the "future generations." Nothing can be further from the truth. Sacrifice--properly understood--is the giving up, rather than the achievement, of values. America was achieved.

What is any human being’s highest attribute and value? It is his mind and his independent judgment. To use one’s mind – to think – is an exclusively personal, individualistic, self-motivated, self-chosen, selfish effort. All else in a person's life is a consequence of the use, or lack of use, of his mind – for better or for worse. One’s convictions about what one believes is right, one’s passionate concern for ideas, is the product of the independent use of one’s mind. The man who places nothing above the judgment of his own mind, even at the risk of his own physical well-being, is not engaging in self-sacrifice. To fight for one’s own fundamental beliefs is the noblest, most egoistic endeavor one can strive for. Integrity is not selfless. It is not sacrificial.

The Founders were thinkers and fighters. They were egoists, in the noblest sense, which is the only valid sense. They believed in a world, not as it was, but as it could be and should be. They took action – pledging their “sacred honor” at great risk to their personal wealth and physical well-being – to that end. They would accept no substitute. They would take no middle road. They would not compromise. They would succeed or perish.

Such was the extraordinary character of the Founders of this nation.

To call the achievement of the Founders a sacrifice is to say that they did not deem the ideals set forth in the Declaration as worthy of their fighting for; that the idea that the individual’s life belongs to him and not to any collective and not to any ruler was less of a value to them than what they pledged in defense of it; that they did what they did anyway without personal conviction or passion; that the Declaration of Independence is a fraud. To say that America was born out of sacrifice is a grave injustice and, in fact, a logical impossibility.

World history produced a steady parade of human sacrifices, and the overwhelming result was a steady stream of blood, tears,and tyranny. The Founders stood up not merely to the British Crown, but to the whole brutal sacrificial history of mankind to turn the most radical set of political ideas ever conceived into history’s greatest nation. It is no accident that the United States of America was born at the apex of the philosophical movement that introduced the concept of the Rights of Man to his own life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness, the Enlightenment.

Only the most extraordinary men of the most ferocious personal strength and courage could have so uncompromisingly upheld, against overwhelming odds and hostility and personal risk, so passionate a belief in their own independently held convictions so as to have established the American Founding. The American Revolution was history’s brightest demonstration of the rationally selfish pursuit of a noble goal by any group of people, ever. It was a monumental human testament to the dedication these men had to their cause – the refusal to live any longer under any social condition except full, genuine freedom, and to "pledge eternal hostility against every form of tyranny."

The highest tribute I can pay to those Americans who died in the line of military duty, on this Memorial Day, is not that they selflessly sacrificed for their country. Self-sacrifice is not a virtue in my value system. It is an insult, because that would mean that their country and what it stands for was irrelevant to them; that they had no personal, selfish interest in it; that they were not passionate about their service; that they were indifferent toward America's enemies; that it made no difference to them whether they returned to live in freedom or to live in slavery.

This, of course, is not the case. That is not Why a Free Man Fights.

Freedom is thoroughly egoistic, because it leaves all individuals free to pursue their own goals, values, and happiness—by inalienable right and with the full protection of his government. It follows that to fight for a free nation is thoroughly egoistic. If American soldiers fight for their freedom, then the highest tribute I can pay to those who perished in that cause is to say that they were cut from the mold of the Founding Fathers; that they did not set out to die for their country but rather that they set out to fight, at great personal risk, for the only values under which they desired to live—that radical set of ideals that is the United States of America.

A military, of course, is not the first line of defense for freedom, nor an unmitigated good. As stated at the outset, militaries fight to protect borders—more often than not borders of unfree countries. Not so America’s military, which does protect a free nation’s borders. America has not faced an existential threat to its sovereignty in 30 years, and has not fought a war to protect its borders since the 1940s. Today, thankfully, America is militarily untouchable. The technological supremacy of our military power could instantly crush any power around the world that dared pose a threat to our borders.

Yet today, nearly three decades after the fall of the Soviet Communist menace—the last true existential threat to America—we are less free than we were then, thanks to the growth of the regulatory welfare state. Our freedom, once protected by our Constitution, has actually been eroding for a century--and now faces it's greatest-ever internal threat, the rise of the reactionary Democratic Socialism, the so-called "New Socialists."

The fight for freedom based on individual rights is fundamentally a philosophical fight. Today, America’s military might is greater than ever before, and yet freedom is at its lowest ebb since the end of the Civil War. If America continues losing the knowledge of what freedom is, where it comes from, and why we deserve it as an inalienable right, all of that incredible military power won’t save us. If We the People, each as sovereign individuals—we who have allowed a regulatory welfare state to grow into the monstrosity it has become—want to honor the military that protects us from foreign enemies, we must come to grips with this simple, observable fact: The primary threat to Americans’ freedom today is not external—any foreign power that threatens America as a sovereign nation will be crushed like a bug in short order. The primary threat to America today is internal, in the form of the ideas of collectivism, statism and democratic socialism eroding the ideals of individualism, capitalism, and constitutional republicanism. It is not enough to put some number of years into a military career. It is not enough to pay taxes to support the military. We must fight with words and pen for our freedom every day.

This is not to diminish the role of the U.S. military; only to put it in proper perspective. We can’t win the internal philosophical battle against the enemies of freedom without keeping the external enemies of freedom at bay. We need our military, and it is fitting that we recognize American soldiers lost in battle. It is fitting not just because of the importance of the military, but as a reminder that “war is hell”; that the cost of war to actual living human beings is horrendous; and that Americans should never be pushed into battle for altruistic causes or with rules of engagement that hamper their ability to protect themselves and win as quickly as possible, as has too often been the case over the past century (think “making the world safe for democracy,” or the “domino theory,” or the “forward strategy for freedom”). If we deployed our military more to actually defend our borders and less as the world’s policeman and do-gooder, we’d have fewer dead soldiers to memorialize.

With the full context understood, in memoriam of those who perished fighting in defense of a nation founded on and defined by individual freedom, and to all of America’s service men and women past and present:

Kudos for your service in defense of a nation based on American ideals, for your desire to live in freedom, and for your fierce determination to—I hope—accept no substitute. It’s only fitting to recognize the service of persons who lost their lives in the defense of the values that they, and all true Americans’, hold in common.

Happy Memorial Day! Enjoy it. Live it. That’s the best way to memorialize them.
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Tuesday, May 21, 2019

QUORA: Why are the Clinton supporters mad at the Electoral College if they knew beforehand it would decide the winner?

I posted this answer:

The implication is that Trump is not the legitimately elected president. But that’s false.

Though a reluctant Trump voter, I am not a Trump fan. But I have to say: The whiny sore losers who have been calling Donald Trump illegitimate because he failed to win the national popular vote are hypocrites. Throughout the 2016 campaign, most pollsters were consistently predicting a close popular vote but a large win for Hillary in the Electoral College. We regularly heard that Trump had a difficult “path to victory” based on the electoral map, even at points where he pulled even or slightly ahead in the popular tracking polls. Where were these high-minded Hillary supporters when it looked like the Electoral College would work in her favor? Not a peep.

And what about the 2004 election between George W. Bush and John Kerry? That race almost produced an exactly opposite result, with the Electoral College heavily favoring the Democrat John Kerry. In 2004, a swing of a mere 60,000 votes in Ohio, which Bush narrowly won, would have handed John Kerry that state’s 20 Electoral votes, making Kerry the president with a 271-266 electoral win; this, despite G. W. Bush’s 3+ million national popular vote majority. Bush’s margin was larger than Hillary’s, yet Kerry came within a whisker of victory.

Does anybody really believe that, had Trump won the national popular vote but lost the election, or if Kerry had squeaked by in Ohio, that these same folks would be screaming their heads off about how “unfair” it all is or refusing to attend the inaugurations of the “illegitimate” President Kerry or President Hillary Clinton? Don’t make me laugh.

Trump and Clinton both went in and played by the same electoral rules, as established by the U.S. Constitution. Both campaigned for an Electoral Vote majority, not a popular vote majority. Trump won the election fair and square. Trump is the legitimately elected president of the United States.

RELATED: See my answer to the QUORA question 'Why does the Electoral College of the United States of America exist?'

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Saturday, May 18, 2019

Why I Will Never Vote for a Democrat

In a 5/3/19 front page article for the New Jersey Star-Ledger, Pallone, with new power, steers strategy on health care and climate, Tom Moran reports:

Ask Congressman Frank Pallone about the progressive push on Medicare for All, and he waves his hand as if swatting away a buzzing fly.

“It’s not something I can accomplish,” he says. “We can’t prioritize that because we have to prioritize things we can actually do.”

The same goes for the Green New Deal, the other bookend of the progressive agenda being pushed by the likes of Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. That stuff is fine for the cable TV shows, but it doesn’t much interest Pallone.

“I don’t focus on that because I’m trying to focus on bills,” he says.

That says it all.

In January, Pallone became chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which deals with climate and health care legislation. As Moran reports, Pallone is an advocate of Canadian-style single-payer health care. He has never met  “climate legislation” he couldn’t support. “Don’t mistake Pallone for a timid centrist,” says Moran. “He is a full-speed progressive. . .”

Keep that in mind when you hear that the ascendant far-Left, openly socialist wing of the Democratic Party can’t get any traction because of “moderate” Democrats. That may be true in the short term. But the so-called moderates are merely pragmatic socialists, who want to “get things done”--that is, get us to full-throated socialism in piecemeal legislative fashion.

Don’t be fooled by the many Democrats who shun the socialist label. Socialism is deeply embedded in the Party’s ideological DNA. On documenting the early 19th Century Owenite and Fourier socialistic movements of 1824 and 1842, respectively, historian John Humphrey Noyes observes that “their ideas actually got a foot-hold and influence in the great Democratic Party” (History of American Socialisms, P.23). The entire modern Democratic Party is firmly collectivist. The socialists have for 200 years been in control of the party’s long-term agenda. The moderates are facilitating, not blocking, that trend. To be sure, the Republican Party is also facilitating the socialist trend. As Democrats abandon welfare statism and embrace socialism, the GOP is abandoning its free market roots and is now the welfare state party.

But the Republican Party is far less bad, and still open to re-embracing free market capitalism. The Democratic Party was created nearly 200 years ago explicitly to repudiate America’s constitutional republican philosophical roots in favor of a radical reinterpretation of America as a democracy in order to defend and save slavery. It deliberately repudiated the idea that all men are created equal and possessing inalienable individual rights, as stated in America’s foundational philosophic document, the Declaration of Independence. The Democratic Party was born of philosophic treason. It has not changed its stripes, fundamentally. It is hopelessly unredeemable. Moderates notwithstanding, when you vote for a Democrat, you are helping to bring to power a gang with totalitarian socialist designs on America.

This is why I will never vote for a Democrat.

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Wednesday, May 15, 2019

QUORA: ‘Can democracy survive capitalism?’

I posted this answer:

The real question is, Can capitalism survive democracy?

Capitalism as an organized political/economic system is a free society based on Enlightenment political principles. Those principles include individual rights, including property rights; limited rights-protecting government; free markets; and governance of objective law applied equally to all. In its original philosophic conception, America is not a democracy. It is a constitutional republic that has a democratic process. In a republic, the power of the vote is checked by the constitutional limits on government power. The basic feature of capitalism, which is integral to Americanism, is individual autonomy and self-governance, within the confines established by the same rights of others. Consequently, the individual needs the freedom of action, as defined by the principle of individual rights, to live by the judgement of his own mind without coercive interference from others, including others as government officials. For capitalism to function, one’s rights should never be at risk in any election.

Democracy is unlimited rule by electoral majority (or its elected representatives). The basic premise of democracy is that the elected government can do whatever it chooses to do to whomever it chooses based solely on the premise that it represents the “will of the people” as expressed by victorious factions in elections. There are no constitutional limits to government power except as determined by government officials, and thus no way to protect individual rights. When majority rule is the standard, there are no limiting principles to that rule. Democracy is the rule of mob might, not objective law. “Freedom” is basically government permission, and individual “rights” can be restricted or discarded any time the government can claim it is acting on the “will of the people: that is, there are no inalienable rights-which means, no rights at all. Democracy, properly understood, is a manifestation of totalitarian collectivism.

Do not confuse democracy with the democratic process in a constitutional republic. If by “democracy” we mean the limited electoral authority in a constitutional republic, there is no conflict between capitalism and democracy, since the freedom of the individual is not at risk. However, capitalism is incompatible with genuine democracy, which places no constraints on the government’s force over individuals. In any conflict between force and voluntarism, force will win--which means, in any conflict between democracy and capitalism, democracy wins, making capitalism nonfunctional.

Freedom is not the right to vote. Freedom is the right to live your life regardless of anyone else’s vote, so long as you respect the same rights of others. In the proper understanding of the terms, democracy can exist without capitalism, but not the other way around. Capitalism, the system of inalienable individual liberty, cannot survive genuine democracy, the system of majority rule.

Recommended for further study: on democracy and freedom, see Timothy Sandefur, The Conscience of the Constitution, especially Chapter One, “Democracy and Freedom”; on capitalism and freedom, see Andrew Bernstein, Capitalism Unbound: The Incontestable Moral Case for Individual Rights; and on the connection between rights and politics, see Tara Smith, “Moral Rights and Political Freedom

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* [Quora is a social media website founded by two former Facebook employees. According to Wikipedia:

Quora is a question-and-answer website where questions are created, answered, edited and organized by its community of users. The company was founded in June 2009, and the website was made available to the public on June 21, 2010.[3]Quora aggregates questions and answers to topics. Users can collaborate by editing questions and suggesting edits to other users' answers.[4]

You can also reply to other users’ answers.]

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Contra Mark Levin, Americanism Rests on Reason, Not Faith

In Chapter One of his book Rediscovering Americanism, Mark Levin discusses the basis for the “self-evident truths” of the Declaration of Independence--political equality, unalienable individual rights, and constitutional republican government. Americanism cites the work of many of the Founding Fathers. He cites Aristotle, Cicero, Aquinas, Locke, and Montesquieu, among others, to uncover the source of the ideas that support Americanism.

Levin spends pages explaining how the source of rights, morality, justice, virtue, and truth is Natural Law--that is, the facts of reality. “Self-evident,” he explains, means “knowable through right reason.” In other words, there is a rational, scientific basis for Americanism.

Or, at least, that’s Levin’s implication. After pages of convincingly explaining that Americanism is rational and reality based, Levin undercuts his case with this one paragraph. Quoting from his previous book Liberty and Tyranny, Levin writes:

Is it possible that there is no Natural Law and man can know moral and unalienable rights from his own reasoning, unaided by the supernatural or God? There are, of course, those who argue this case—including the Atheist and others who attempt to distinguish Natural Law from Divine Providence. It is not the view of the Founders. This position would, it seems, lead man to arbitrarily create his own morality and rights, or create his own arbitrary morality  and rights—right and wrong, just and unjust, good and bad, would be relative concepts susceptible to circumstantial applications. Moreover, by what justification would “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” be “unalienable Rights” if there is no Natural Law, since reason alone cannot make them inviolable? What then is Natural Law if its origin is unknown or rejected? It is nothing more than a human construct. An individual may benefit from the moral order and unalienable rights around which society functions while rejecting their Devine origin. But the civil society cannot organize itself that way. It would become unstable and vulnerable to anarchy and tyranny, imperiling all within it, especially the individual. The abandonment of Natural Law is the adoption of tyranny in one form or another, because there is no humane or benevolent alternative to Natural Law.

Levin offers no evidence for the proposition that there can be no Natural Law--inexorable truths observable in observation of the natural world--without God or a supernatural force. We must accept the divine origin of Natural Law on faith. If we don’t, we abandon Natural Law altogether, which in turn, Levin asserts, leads to arbitrary constructs and ultimately tyranny.

But is not his claim for the divinity the arbitrary construct? Otherwise, why would he rely on faith? The principles of Americanism, Levin concludes in the Epilogue, “are born of intuition, faith, experience, and right reason.” If you can validate Americanism by studying the facts of nature, why do you need faith in God as proof of Natural Law? That paragraph is an obvious (and wholly unnecessary) contradiction to the previous pages, in which Levin argues for a reason and reality based approach to validating Americanism.

It’s true, as Levin says, that Locke and the Founders believed in God as the “Creator” of nature. But that is a separate issue. Ayn Rand once observed: “Regardless of how one believes existence came about,” she said (I’m paraphrasing), “the fact is that man is a being of a specific nature, with specific requirements for survival, discoverable by observation and logic.”

The Founders vision was a tremendous advance. Rand completed their project. One doesn’t need faith to justify Americanism. In fact, Rand observes, it’s counter-productive. The Second Chapter of Levin’s book is titled The Progressive Masterminds, where Levin turns to tyranny. If, Levin asserts, Americanism ultimately rests on faith in a supernatural, he in effect anoints the Masterminds with the mantel of reason and reality. That is Rand’s view, and I agree. Why do that? Reason and reality, not faith, are the absolutes that undergird Americanism. Keep faith private, if that’s what you believe. The battleground for Americanism is reason and reality. If we give that up, we lose.

Americanism boiled down to essentials is simply this: Reason is man’s means of survival and flourishing. Reason is an attribute of the individual. Therefore, individual man--every individual--must be free, via inalienable right, to live and act by his own reasoning mind. To secure his rights equally, limited constitutional government must be instituted. The facts support it. Reason can discover these truths. There is no need to undermine this argument with faith, even if you are a “person of faith.”

Levin is a great scholar. I’ve read most of his books. I recommend them. There is much to learn from him. He knows how to integrate history and ideas with current trends. I read his previous books, Men in Black, Liberty and Tyranny, Ameritopia (which I reviewed for The Objective Standard), and The Liberty Amendments. I was looking forward to reading Rediscovering Americanism. I am disappointed. He undercuts the whole case he had been building by resting it on a foundation of quicksand. Worse, he dismisses some powerful allies. He doesn’t mention Ayn Rand, except indirectly, as one of “those who . . . distinguish Natural Law from Divine Providence,” or are outright Atheist. Building on the work of scholars going back to Aristotle, Rand strengthened the case for Americanism, mainly by building the moral case for Americanism, and anchoring it to objective reality and man’s rational capacity. On Americanism, Rand pointed to a potential common ground between Objectivism and Enlightened Christianity. Both sides value reason and reality. They can be powerful allies in this great cause. Yet here we have a leading voice of Conservatism turning his back, in order to save faith’s role.

It’s a shame. Faith is a private matter. A Christian freedom fighter doesn’t have to give it up. Just keep it out of the debate over freedom. Why grant the enemy the powerful undeserved weapon--the illusion of rationality? Levin goes a long way to proving that you don’t need faith to justify freedom. Why use it? Faith is the province of some, but not all. Freedom is for everyone, not just theists. It is under siege. Freedom lovers should be as united as possible, and uniting behind a rational justification for Americanism is within reach. We should seize it.

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